Search icon


02nd Aug 2022

Pilot, 23, plunged 3,500ft to his death from plane after co-pilot issued urgent mayday call

Charlie Herbert

His body was recovered in a tree

A 23-year-old fell almost 3,500 feet to his death just moments after his co-pilot called air traffic control to say they would be making an emergency landing.

Aspirational professional pilot Charles Crooks was in the small 10-person plane with his co-pilot when the aircraft took off on Friday afternoon.

But during the flight, the plane lost control of the right wheel of its landing gear. Crooks’ co-pilot therefore called air traffic control at Raleigh-Durham Airport in North Carolina to inform them they would like to make an emergency landing.

They had already failed to land at Raeford West Airport.

In a recording released by investigators, the pilot says: “We were attempting to land. We made contact with the ground, had a hard landing and decided to go around. And at that point we lost the wheel.”

When the plane finally landed though, only one pilot was onboard.

He was treated for minor injuries at a nearby hospital.

According to investigators, Crooks had fallen from the plane without a parachute. It is unclear whether he jumped or fell.

His body was later found in a residential neighborhood in Fuquay-Varina. Residents reported hearing a loud thud outside, and flagged down police searching the area.

Crooks’ body was recovered in a tree, 30 miles south of the airport where the plane had landed.

Authorities believe he fell almost 3,500ft.

His father, Hew Crooks, told WRAL that his son had gained his private pilot license when he was a sophomore in college.

He had worked as a flight instructor for over a year and dreamed of becoming a professional pilot.

“We’re a strong family, and we’re a very loving family. But this, it leaves a hole,” his father said. “I don’t know. We can’t process it right now.”

The co-pilot of the aircraft was released from hospital on Friday evening, and is yet to speak to the media about what caused Crooks to fall from the plane.

Related links: